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A WORKBOOK AND ONLINE COMMUNITY
for Co-CREATING OUR SUSTAINABILITY ETHIC

Section II - Guiding Principles
Chapter 2 - The Power of Ethics

 

 

Moderation in temper is always a virtue,
but moderation in principle is always a vice.

Thomas Paine


What is the power of ethics in your life?

A couple years ago I had the opportunity to hear Maude Barlow, Canadian activist and co-author of ‘Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World's Water,' speak in Portland. She told the story of confronting the CEO of a company that was attempting to own vast water rights as well as making water a commodity by bottling and selling it. At one point in their discussion he said, "I can't talk to you because there is no compromising on your part." She responded, "That's right, this is an ethical issue.' She was coming from a perspective with which I'm in total agreement -- we must not compromise our ethics. More specifically, clean water isn't a commodity subject to individual or corporate profit. It is essential to all living systems and, as such, all humans (and all species) should have free access to clean water to meet basic health and cleanliness needs.

OO_II-2_2009-02-09

As she finished her presentation, she stood at the front of the stage and radiated a beautiful energy. She was stepping into a future that was full of extremely difficult political challenges, but she was moving forth with a visible joy and eagerness. I don't remember her exact words, but they were something like, "I don't know what the future holds, but I step into it with confidence as I'm guided by my ethical compass."

In that moment I mentally juxtaposed what she said with Lewis Carroll's quote from Alice in Wonderland: "If you don't know where you're going, any path will do." Here was an apparent duality: going forth without a plan but with an ethical compass versus having goals and objectives that essentially pull a person into his or her future. What a beautiful place to blend apparent opposites - to have goals and objectives but not be wed to them in such a way that they cause us to make poor decisions, and to have a set of ethics that influence every step along the way. It was clear to me that, for Ms. Barlow, the ethics were the dominant of the two paradigms, and I believe it is this mindset that is a necessary cultural shift if we are to play the infinite game of global community.


Reflection

Please take a moment to think about a time in your life when you (or someone you admire) took an ethical position from which there was no compromise, even in the face of potentially harsh consequences.

What was the position taken?
What were the unyielding ethical principles?
Has the ethical position prevailed? And if not,
What changes are necessary so that it will prevail?

 


Rev. 2009-02-09 MOM

 


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